White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo *Review*

I’m no stranger to social media. I’m pretty active on all the mainstream social media apps, but I’ve seen the term ‘white fragility’ thrown around the most on Reddit and Twitter. 

Probably because those are the two platforms I use most to try and get both liberal and conservative viewpoints. I use Facebook and Instagram to keep up with family and look at cool stories and pictures about airplanes, my latest infatuation.

Normally, the term ‘white fragility’ is a derogatory term used by many left-leaning individuals and journalists to ‘call-out’ those that are saying the mainstream media is attacking people for being white and they’re tired of it. 

The term is derived from the book White Fragility, published in 2018 by Robin DiAngelo. It is about how you commonly see white people that get more up in arms about being called out for unintentional racism than any other color of people. As you would expect, it instantly became a New York Times Bestseller, but that title pretty much doesn’t mean anything because publishers can buy up however many copies of the book it takes to make it a bestseller then resell those books to stores again. The NYT Bestseller sticker means nothing for this.

Nonetheless, I think it is important to get straight content instead of just hearsay from news outlets or nimrods hiding behind their keyboard on social media. 

I recently read Ben Shapiro’s book The Right Side of History, and he is a big-time conservative voice in the media that stands by what he believes in, but gets called terrible names, and gets death threats from both sides of the political aisle. 

That means, going into reading White Fragility I only had his perspective on the book. His perspective mainly said that it was crap and has led to the term to weaponize against conservatives for disagreeing with liberals. 

First Impressions

Book Cover and Author Robin DiAngelo

Initially, I had a similar feeling to Ben Shapiro. White Fragility kind of felt like an attack on the middle-class and upper-middle-class white citizen for not paying attention to race and then getting mad when people pointed it out. 

I found myself during the initial parts of the book getting irritated and annoyed at all these accusations of racism. It felt even more demeaning when the author kept saying that her goal wasn’t to call a person racist but to call out when they had racist actions in their daily life. 

The way it is written, though probably intentionally done to stir up emotions, almost caused me to just put the book down entirely. It gives a “holier than thou” vibe initially because the author is a random white lady.

The joke was on me though because I rented the audiobook version from the library and was listening to it on the Libby app. That means I couldn’t put it down because it was in my headphones… Enough joking, I seriously got annoyed and felt like the work was written to be a little condescending at first to get the reader’s emotions riled up. (Side note: if you like ebooks and or audiobooks but don’t want to spend the money to get them, check out the Libby app. It’s free and is designed to be used in unison with the library services which are also free and can be found in almost all towns.)

Final Impressions

I had to take a day before continuing to listen to the audiobook after starting it. 

I felt personally attacked. After all, I’d never done anything that was even remotely racist.

This sparked some conversation between me and my wife. She went to get her Master’s in Sport Psychology and something they dealt with often was racism between student-athletes. Her experiences helped open her eyes and ears to diverse backgrounds, so she was very helpful in getting me in the right mindset to continue the book. 

I think there are ways to have written the book to be less condescending, but that’s not my job. I’m a flight attendant, not a book editor at a major publisher.

The talks with my wife, and with many diverse people while working at an airline, that will continue to remain unnamed because of legal reasons, that boasts one of the most diverse employee populations in America, really helped me understand by getting upset at the beginning of the book I was doing exactly what the book was classifying as ‘white fragility.’

The point of the book is not to piss off the people who read it. If you get pissed then it likely means you care. It doesn’t mean you haven’t done or said something racist, but it means that you have the capacity to be better. 

This book hasn’t even mildly changed my mind on political legislation, but it did help me to see that people carry implicit biases in their life and they accidentally exercise those biases without meaning to offend. 

I don’t think there should be a law that makes saying any derogatory language illegal. I do think that people as a whole need to be better though. You shouldn’t go around judging people based on things they can’t control. 

Even on some things they can control shouldn’t be a cause for a character judgment. On top of that, don’t maintain the same opinion of a person that is trying to change. If a person has a rough background, but they are doing things in their power to change that, don’t be the asshat judging them for their past. Everyone has at least one thing they’ve said or done in the past that they’re not proud of. Maybe it was even something that wasn’t said or done that you’re not proud of.

Just be a good person.

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